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The best (and worst) hand soaps for frequent handwashing

Click to play video 'The science behind hand-washing: why soap and water kill the COVID-19' The science behind hand-washing: why soap and water kill the COVID-19
3 The science behind hand-washing: why soap and water kill the COVID-19 – Apr 2, 2020

Thanks to the novel coronavirus, Canadians have been reminded about the importance of good hand hygiene for months.

According to public health, warm water and soap — along with vigorous rubbing for at least 20 seconds — is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19. The more often you wash, the better.

But what are your options if all that scrubbing leads to cracked, dry skin? Are there certain ingredients you should look out for the next time you’re in a store?

READ MORE: The best (and worst) hand creams for dry, cracked hands

“People are certainly washing their hands more frequently during the outbreak, and that’s important — people shouldn’t stop washing their hands,” said Dr. Esther Freeman, director of Global Health Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard medical school.

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However, increased washing combined with the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to dry, cracked hands.

The good news: there are easy ways to keep your hands clean and moisturized.

The first tip, said Freeman, is to avoid super hot water because it dries your hands out more quickly. Try lukewarm water instead.

Click to play video 'Greasy is good: Breaking down the best and worst hand creams' Greasy is good: Breaking down the best and worst hand creams
Greasy is good: Breaking down the best and worst hand creams – Feb 27, 2020

When you buy soap, look for products that are fragrance-free and dye-free. These are the least likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions, Freeman said, especially for people with sensitive skin.

When you’re done washing your hands, pat your hands dry and “use moisturizer over your whole hand,” Freeman said. She recommends keeping a moisturizer next to your soap beside the sink, and in other common places, like your car, purse or backpack.

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When buying both soap and moisturizer, don’t be fooled by the “all natural” or “organic” claims, said Freeman. Pay close attention to the actual ingredients.

“Just because fields of dandelions are a natural thing, we aren’t meant to be rolling in them,” Freeman said. “Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s meant to be on our skin.”

Reporters at Global News tried out some of the best hand soaps and organized them below by price: $10 and under, $20 and under and $20 or more.

Under $10

Illustration by Laura Whelan. Illustration by Laura Whelan

Name of product: Softsoap soothing aloe vera
Price: $3.99
Available at:
A variety of retailers
Product specialty: Softsoap promises a “soothing” and “moisturizing” experience.
First thoughts: The brand name says it all. This is a really soft soap on the hands and the aloe vera’s soothing effects works a charm for busy, working hands like mine. If it weren’t so smooth and liquidy in texture, I would have believed it was a moisturizer. The soap sometimes gets stuck in the bottle, however, which can be a bit of a pain.
End of day test: My hands feel soft, smooth and clean. It’s certainly not the sliced bread of soaps, but it delivers all that it promises. The lack of a lasting scent, unfortunately, leaves something to be desired.
Would you recommend this hand soap? If you’re prone to dry hands and aren’t too keen on scents, I’d highly recommend this soap. It does a good job at keeping you clean and smooth.
Score out of 5: 3.5 — Adam Wallis

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Name of product: Live Clean hydrating liquid hand soap in coconut milk
Price: $3.97
Available at: A variety of retailers
Product specialty: It’s vegan, made of 98 per cent plant ingredients and promises rich moisture for dry hands.
First thoughts:The scent is amazing and the consistency does feel rich, but I didn’t like the lack of lather. It made it harder to wash off.
End of day test:My hands never felt particularly dry, but didn’t feel moisturized either, which I guess is a big ask for a soap. The light scent was nice to waft throughout the day.
Would you recommend this hand soap? For a cost-effective vegan soap, I’d definitely recommend this one. I liked knowing that no harmful chemicals were running down my sink. Its only downfall is the lack of lather.
Score out of 5:4.5 — Meaghan Wray

Name of product: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day hand soap in peony
Price: $5.98
Available at:
A variety of retailers
Product specialty: Ingredients are “at least 98 per cent” plant derived, and it’s never tested on animals.
First thoughts: I love everything about the look and feel of this bottle. It’s old-fashioned but sturdy, and the pink label looks super cute in my bathroom. The peony scent is also so fresh and light.
End of day test: This soap was a winner for me. The formula is light but effective, and it suds up really easily, which is so satisfying. I’ve always seen this brand on shelves but I’ve never reached for it — I’m glad to have tried it now!
Would you recommend this hand soap? Absolutely. I would even use it as an addition to a cute house-warming gift of essentials.
Score out of 5: 5 — Meghan Collie

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Name of product: Dove bar soap
Price: $8.47 for a pack of six
Available at:
A variety of retailers
Product specialty: A “gentle, cleaning formula” that has an added layer of moisturizer.
First thoughts: I use this soap on my body, so how different can it be on my hands? It was something I didn’t consider an issue, but I quickly realized my daily body soap was not my go-to hand soap. It could be the frequency (I only shower once or twice a day, but wash my hands more than 10 times) or maybe it was just the switch from liquid soap to bar soap.
End of day test: It may be fine for my body, but overtime, my hands felt dry and dull. I wasn’t feeling that moisture that I was promised and the scent didn’t really last. For the first time, I questioned the soap I use on my body.
Would you recommend this hand soap? For handwashing, I would skip the bar altogether. Generally speaking, using a bar soap instead of a liquid soap isn’t as efficient.
Score out of 5:  3 — Arti Patel

Name of product: Nature Clean citrus hand soap
Price: $4.47
Available at: 
A variety of retailers
Product specialty: 100 per cent natural​ and plant-derived.
First thoughts: The lemon scent is nice and light, and the soap is easy to lather. Good consistency and not too runny.
End of day test: After a week or so of use, I found my hands to be quite dry. While the scent is great and light (and the product does a good job at washing hands), my skin was in need of some serious moisturizer.
Would you recommend this hand soap? Yes, I would recommend this product if you want something plant-based. However, make sure you use hand moisturizer after each wash.
Score out of 5: 3.5 — Laura Hensley

Name of product: Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile soap, bar and liquid
Price: $4.79
Available at: 
A variety of retailers
Product specialty: To quote the packaging, “Only the purest organic & Fair Trade ingredients. No synthetic preservatives, no detergents or foaming agents —None!”
First thoughts: Smells amazing, interesting packaging. This seems like the soap a hippie would use.
End of day test: My hands felt very moisturized and clean using both the bar and liquid versions, even an hour after washing. (Note: the liquid version is more concentrated so you use far less.)
Would you recommend this hand soap? ​I would absolutely recommend Dr. Bronner’s. It’s so good I might actually be a convert now. Not only is it as easy on the environment as you can get, it creates an effortless, bubbly lather and smells like a spa (highly recommend the Citrus and Lavender scents). They offer unscented for those of us who can’t tolerate even the slightest scent. The only con to Dr. Bronner’s is the packaging, which is (literally) covered from corner-to-corner in teeny tiny text that’s hard to read — it was tough for a newbie to the product to understand which soap did what because so much information is packed on there. Less is more, Dr. Bronner’s!
Score out of 5: 4.5 (minus half a point for the packaging) — Chris Jancelewicz

Name of product: Ivory bar soap
Price:
$3.97 for a pack of 10
Available at: 
A variety of retailers
Product specialty: 99.44 per cent pure (it floats!).
First thoughts: This is your basic bar of soap. It’s a simple, no-frills bar that doesn’t crumble or leave residue on your hands, and you won’t be smelling it more than 10 seconds after you wash up. Lather is decent too.
End of day test: This soap is effective and forgettable. It does the job – nothing more and nothing less. My hands didn’t smell especially nice or feel especially soft, but they weren’t dry either.
Would you recommend this hand soap? If you just need soap, this is soap. If you want a handwashing experience, look elsewhere. I can’t complain, but there aren’t any features that make it stand out, either.
Score out of 5: 3.5 — Josh Elliott

Name of product: Sapadilla sweet lavender and lime liquid hand soap
Price: $8.99
Available at: A variety of retailers
Product specialty: This vegan hand soap is made of all plant-based ingredients, even down to the scent, made with 100 per cent pure essential oils. And it’s local to Canada!
First thoughts: I really love a natural, spa-like scent, so that’s what I first noticed. It lathers nicely and the bottle looks nice on my counter.
End of day test: My hands were a touch dry, but I didn’t mind so much because I liked so many other aspects of the soap. This one was particularly perfect to have in my kitchen, because the natural scent cut through strong smells like garlic.
Would you recommend this hand soap? Yes. For a local, vegan and totally natural product, this one is a keeper. I can look past the dryness.
Score out of 5: 4.5 — Meaghan Wray

Name of product: Attitude Super Orange Leaves Natural hand soap
Price: $6.99
Available at: A variety of retailers
First thoughts: What’s that smell? Oh my God, this soap smells incredible. It’s like you bathed your hands in a tub of orange juice, except it is soap … and your hands are getting clean rather than sticky. The soap itself feels very refreshing. It really helps to restore dry hands thanks to the Watercress and Indian cress super leaf ingredients. I felt a difference almost immediately. Honestly, I went back to the sink minutes later just so I could wash my hands again – for fun.
End of day test: My hands feel incredibly smooth and they still smell like a treat.
Would you recommend this hand soap? Most definitely. Everything about this soap is appealing. Even the bottle. It has restorative properties, it smells good and it makes you feel good. If you don’t like oranges though, then this particular flavour of Attitude is not for you, sorry. There is, however, a variety of different options on their website. Who knew soap could be so satisfying?
Score out of 5:  5 oranges out of 5 — Adam Wallis

Name of product: Lush Milky Bar
Price: $5.95
Available at: Lush
Product specialty: Vegan, made from soy milk.
First thoughts: It’s a bar shaped like an old-timey milk bottle. It’s also riddled with sparkly glitter, but this is no April Fool’s Day prank. The glitter dissolves and doesn’t stay on your hands, because it’s 2020 and Lush has apparently figured out soap technology. Otherwise, it’s a little awkward to spin the bottle-shaped bar around in your hands, but it gets up a nice lather. It smells fresh, simple and clean – not like a bag of potpourri.
End of day test: My hands felt a little extra soft and the scent was just right. Unlike other fancy soaps, the smell doesn’t hang around you like a cloud – it’s a simple and clean scent that you can smell only when you sniff your hands.
Would you recommend this hand soap?  This is great stuff. It’s gentle on your hands, it lathers up nicely and it doesn’t smell too much. It’s not perfume masquerading as a soap – it’s just really, really nice soap.
Score out of 5: 5 — Josh Elliott

Name of product: Eco + Amour citrus hand soap
Price: $5.50
Available at: 
Online at ecoandamour.com
Product specialty: Palm free, biodegradable, plant-based and organic and free of a synthetic fragrance.
First thoughts:  I’ve never had soap in a plastic bag but this seems very convenient because you can send the plastic pouch back and get a refill on your soap. This soap’s scent is also very light, fresh and not overpowering.
End of day test: My hands are not dry at all and the smell isn’t lingering. My only thing about this soap is I’m not sure how well the pouch will stand up as the soap bag gets less full. It would be cool if the company designed some type of stand you could put the soap in to make it fit in well with bathroom décor.
Would you recommend this hand soap?  I would recommend this soap because I like the idea of the refills and I also like that it is biodegradable and organic.
Score out of 5: 3 — Katie Scott

Name of product: Bath & Body Works Gentle Foaming hand soap in peach bellini
Price: $7.50
Available at: 
Bath & Body Works
First thoughts: The images on the packaging give me the impression that the peach scent is likely going to be very strong. Peach scented bath-related items are also my favourite, so I was expecting to like it. After the first pump of the soap, it lathered up and foamed nicely in my hands. The smell was fairly strong — however, I really enjoy peach scents so I have no problem with the strong scent. After washing my hands, they did not feel too dry and I didn’t feel like I needed moisturizer immediately.
End of day test:By the end of the day, my hands did not feel dry and the scent was not too much for me. My hands were also left with the subtle smell of peaches which was pleasant.
Would you recommend this hand soap? Yes, particularly for those who like scented soap. However, I think the bottle may get used up too fast based on how much comes out.
Score out of 5: 4.5 — Olivia Bowden

Name of product: Method gel hand wash in rose water
Price: $4.49
Available at:
A variety of retailers
Product specialty: “Hands so clean, you could eat them.”
First thoughts: I have to say right off the bat this product smells wonderful. When I read the tagline, I completely agreed. The bottle itself is easy to use, the scent is lovely and you don’t need that much product to actually wash your hands. The one thing I hate about most soap brands is the overly perfumed or scented products, but this hand wash was the perfect balance.
End of day test: When it comes to hand soaps, I have yet to find something that will fix dry skin after washing. If anything, good hand washing needs to be followed by good lotion. After using this hand soap for weeks, I would say my hands didn’t feel any softer generally, but I didn’t have overly dry or cracked skin either. For the smell alone, I would use this soap again.
Would you recommend this hand soap? Yes, in fact I would highly recommend this scent.
Score out of 5:  4.5 — Arti Patel

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$10-$20

Illustration by Laura Whelan. Illustration by Laura Whelan

Name of product: Perth Soap Co. Milk & Honey cleansing bar with argan oil
Price: $10
Available at: 
Online at perthsoap.com
Product specialty: Liquid soap infused with Argan Oil to leave skin “feeling soft and moisturized.”
First thoughts: The smell is great! Strong without being overpowering. Easy to pump out of container and lathers nicely. The consistency is thick enough that you feel like you don’t need a lot to go a long way.
End of day test: This soap actually moisturizes hands more than others I’ve tried. The scent wears off after washing, but the skin does not feel dry or irritated.
Would you recommend this hand soap? Yes! I would also recommend using the soap’s matching hand cream after for extra dry hands.
Score out of 5: 5 — Laura Hensley

Name of product: Cocoon Apothecary Touchy Feely hand soap
Price: $15
Available at: 
Online at cocoonapothecary.ca
Product specialty: Concentrated formula that reduces packaging, vegan, cruelty-free, biodegradable and certified organic.
First thoughts: After pumping out the soap, I immediately noticed that the product felt hydrating. The scent was not overpowering, but smelled natural. You can tell the product mixes scents of lavender and rosemary. After I washed my hands, they actually felt soft, and not dry at all. I’ve never experienced a hand soap where my hands didn’t feel slightly drier afterward. As someone with dry skin, this was a big deal.
End of day test: I found this soap to be very soothing on my skin. The scent was also light and not too overpowering. My hands continued to feel moisturized throughout the day.
Would you recommend this hand soap? I would definitely recommend this soap for those who are willing to spend a little bit more. With having to wash hands so often due to COVID-19, this soap is a lifesaver for dry skin concerns.
Score out of 5: 5 — Olivia Bowden

Name of product: Caron & Doucet rosemary & lemongrass foaming hand wash
Price: $17.99
Available at: 
Online at carondoucet.ca
Product specialty:Claims to be “100 per cent natural,” crafted from traditional recipes of the Caron family since 1991.
First thoughts: Smells like a calm, tranquil spa. Uniquely shaped bar, more rectangular and thin than your typical bar of soap.
End of day test: The soap did not dry out my hands, but it didn’t really have any moisturizing effect, either. (There is also a liquid version we did not sample.)
Would you recommend this hand soap? ​This may sound silly, but the shape of the soap — while aesthetically pleasing — impacts the ability to lather and comfortably move the soap in your hands. After several seconds of moving the soap around in my hands with water, the soap didn’t really glide. It stuck to my hand, and I had to be rather rigorous to get a lather going. The shape of it makes it awkward to move it around, and it took far too much water to get this thing to sud up. (Yes, that is a professional term). The Spa Blend, Lavender and Ginger & Lemongrass scents smell fantastic, however — this soap’s saving grace.
Score out of 5: 3 — Chris Jancelewicz

Name of product: Pure Home Couture Apothecary french lavender soap cake
Price: $12
Available at: 
Online at purehomecouture.com or in-store at Pure on Locke in Hamilton, Ont.
Product specialty:Made with 10 per cent liquid Goat’s milk, SLS or SLES used, it is biodegradable, non-GMO, dye-free and uses oils originating from plants farmed by sustainable growers.
First thoughts: I really liked that the back of the packaging showed the ingredients. I’m not a huge lavender fan but the smell of this soap cake is not overwhelming like most lavender products.
End of day test: At the end of the day, my hands are not dry and the scent isn’t too strong. The soap cake also didn’t leave any residue on my bathroom counter after I used it which is important to me!
Would you recommend this hand soap?I would recommend this soap cake for people who prefer to use a bar of soap.
Score out of 5: 4, but just because I don’t love the smell of lavender! — Katie Scott

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$20+

Illustration by Laura Whelan. Illustration by Laura Whelan

Name of product: Aesop Resurrection Aromatique hand wash
Price: $51
Available at: 
Aesop
First thoughts: I recognized this as the soap in every TV show, movie and celebrity bathroom, so I went in with high hopes, but the scent nearly knocked me out. Made with orange, rosemary and lavender, I could smell the soap before I even opened the box that came in the mail!
End of day test: The texture is great — very light and foams well — but it’s extremely fragrant. Given the price, I was hoping for a scent that was a bit lighter.
Would you recommend this hand soap? It’s a good soap, but it might be a better fit for your guest bathroom or a space that isn’t used all the time instead of an all-day, everyday product.
Score out of 5: 3 — Meghan Collie

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Check out other product reviews from the Global News Lifestyle team, including hand cream, lip balm and dry shampoo.

Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca